The British Columbia Court of Appeal provided a rare existential perspective commenting on the value of human life this week in the right to die case of Carter v. Canada (Attorney General)2013 BCCA 435. For personal injury lawyers this reaffirms the dignity and respect for life that is the backbone of injury claim compensation.
As the major decision made clear, quoting from Morgentaler  1 S.C.R. 315 : “What stands out from these references, we think, is that the liberty right within s. 7 is thought to touch the core of what it means to be an autonomous human being blessed with dignity and independence in “matters that can properly be characterized as fundamentally or inherently personal”[At para. 31.]
Judge Newbury went on to say,
 It seems to us, then, that considerations involving personal autonomy, decision-making and dignity – the very values asserted by both Ms. Rodriguez and the plaintiffs in the case at bar – have consistently been regarded as engaging security of the person and to a lesser extent, liberty. Life, on the other hand, has been regarded in the existential sense with, in Sopinka J.’s phrase, “deep intrinsic value of its own”; and indeed the majority in Rodriguez referred to the “sanctity of life” in a non-religious sense. (At 585.) This value is reflected not only in the rejection of capital punishment in this country, but in the laws of every country that regards murder as one of the most serious crimes.
 In our view, this differentiation between “life” as an existential value and the values of individual autonomy and liberty, including the ability to enjoy the kinds of experiences described by Chief Justice Finch at para. 86 of his reasons, is as it should be. Those who have only limited ability to enjoy those blessings are no less “alive”, and have no less a right to “life”, than persons who are able-bodied and fully competent. If “life” were regarded as incorporating various qualities which some persons enjoy and others do not, the protection of the Charter would be expanded far beyond what the law can ‘guarantee’, while conversely, a slippery slope would open up for those who are unable to enjoy the blessings described by the Chief Justice.
Personal injury lawyers and the court are left with the difficult task in personal injury cases of having to put a money value to the intrinsic value of human life and the loss of enjoyment of that life.
For a quick introduction into how to put a value on a personal injury claim watch our short video about How Judges decide personal injury cases.
Posted by Personal Injury Lawyer Mr. Renn A. Holness, B.A. LL.B